Inside the school was almost how Miranda remembered it. The floor was more greenish than pink or blue. Apparently the popular fashion now was wearing solid colors from head to toe. The halls were packed wall to wall with kids wearing solid blue, solid green, solid red. Only the nerds and stoners wore mismatched outfits.
She and Cindy set themselves up in the hall by the gym. Kids looked at them like they were aliens.
Maybe it was their clothes.
Miranda scratched her nose. “We didn’t get it perfect.”
A jock in the purple and gold football uniform passed. Cindy shook her head.
Miranda grabbed Cindy’s hand. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“I want to check on Mr. Hanson.”
The teacher’s door was back to normal. Maybe the wood was a little darker, but it had the hand printed sign that read Teacher’s Lounge.
Miranda took a breath and knocked. She wasn’t excited about the possibility of getting yelled at again, but she needed to know. She turned to Cindy. “If this gets ugly, we should just run.”
Mr. Hanson opened the door himself. He was wearing blue shirt, pants and shoes. He saw Miranda and a look of shock crossed his face. Behind him, other teachers craned their necks. They looked equally shocked to see her. Miranda steeled herself for the yelling.
“Oh my God, Miranda. I’m so sorry.”
He grabbed her into a hug. “How is your father?”
After a second, he seemed to remember himself. He took her by the shoulders and put a few feet between them. Other teachers got up and came over.
Mrs. Johnston looked like she might cry. “We’re so sorry to hear.”
Miranda had never gotten so much positive attention at school. She didn’t quite know what to do with it. “It’s okay. I’m okay. I saw Dad today.”
Mr. Hanson rubbed his neck. “Good.”
A few of the other teachers moved back into the room. Miranda said to Mr. Hanson. “Can I talk to you for a minute.”
He looked behind himself. “Of course.”
They moved out into the hall. Students must have gone to their next class, because it was empty. Cindy walked down the hall to the drinking fountain.
The halls were eerily quiet now. Mr. Hanson looked conflicted.
It didn’t look like he was going to say anything, so Miranda said, “I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“Me?” Mr. Hanson looked surprised. “I’m not the one who… who’s going through what you are.”
She’d been thinking about this since Dad had told her about the mad god. Mr. Hanson had been furious the other day. Was that Mr. Hanson gone? Had that whole day been erased? Could the mad god change people? Just the thought of it was horrifying. She had the feeling that if that were true, people were just … puppets.
The drinking fountain clicked on and off down the hall. Cindy was balanced on one foot and clicking the foot-switch with the other.
Mr. Hanson smiled for a second, but when he looked back to Miranda, the smile faded.
She said, “I just… the other day–“
Mr. Hanson put up his hand. “I … I was hoping that was a dream or something. I yelled at you?” He looked lost. “I can’t quite remember it. It seemed too fresh to be a dream.”
He looked incredibly guilty. “I think I might be having blackouts or something.”
So she’d been right. People changed, but they still kept the old versions of themselves. Everyone in town must be so confused by now.
She patted his shoulder, like he was a kid. “Don’t worry about it. It was just a dream.”
All the tension drained out of his face. “Okay.”
Like she’d given him a post hypnotic suggestion.
She nodded and he nodded along with her. His body language relaxed. He looked around, like he’d forgotten why he’d come out there in the first place.
It was probably a good time to end the conversation. Miranda waved to Cindy. “I think we need to get going.”
Mr. Hanson turned and put his hand on the lounge door. “We’ll see you soon.”
He seemed lighter already. “Bye, Cindy.” He went inside.
Her heart hurt a little. It still felt like she’d lost an old version of Mr. Hanson.
But she had other things to worry about. She started down the hall. “Let’s go to the center of town.”
This version of Mr. Hanson remembered the changes, but just as a dream. People couldn’t really be changed. She felt strangely relieved.
Cindy frowned. “Why back into town?”
They made their way to the front doors. Miranda had never realized how creepy the school was when the halls were empty. “Next we need to start fixing the rest of town.”
Of course, people staying mostly the same when the rest of reality changed didn’t explain why Cindy’s dads were disappearing. Miranda needed to think about that more.
The front doors were lighter now and the lions out front were gone.
She’d liked those. She’d need to fix that too.
Cindy stopped short. “You said just the once!”
Oh, right. She had. Miranda turned to her. “Cindy, The town doesn’t have any roads.”
Cindy didn’t say anything. She bit her lip.
Miranda took her wrist. “Come on.”
They’d have to cross another plain of grass to get back into town, but there were more sidewalks once they got downtown.
Cindy yanked Miranda to a stop. “I couldn’t concentrate.”
Cindy motioned around them. “We were supposed to be concentrating on the school, but I couldn’t imagine it. I didn’t think of anything.”
Miranda rubbed her forehead. “Maybe that’s why things are a little different than they were?”
Cindy frowned. “I don’t know. I want to see my dads.”
Miranda grabbed her wrist again. “Come on, I have an idea.”